As Christians, none of us are strangers to trials. The Bible says, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, Jehovah is my God” (Zechariah 13:9). It also says in the Bible, “My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). From this, we can see that God wants to give refinement and trials to His chosen people and, through this, to perfect our faith and our love for God, to resolve our corrupt dispositions or the taints in our belief, to remedy our wrong views and to enable us to be purified. We can therefore encounter all kinds of environments that are at odds with our own notions. Examples of these environments may include sometimes encountering the refinement of illness, and sometimes our families may encounter misfortune, such as the suffering of a relative or our homes being burgled; sometimes we may encounter difficulties in our jobs or things in our lives that are not as we would wish; another example is what we decide to do when the interests of our flesh clash with the interests of the church. All these examples are, without a doubt, trials to us. So what approach should we take to the trials God sets for us? And when trials befall us, what is God’s will?
Over my recent contemplations on the Bible, I have been inspired by the experiences of Job and Abraham when trials befell them, and I’d like to share this with everyone.
The Trials of Job
First, we have to mention a person in the Bible who goes by the name of Job. Job feared God and shunned evil all his life and he often made offerings to God, and so God blessed him with hills covered in cattle and sheep, and great wealth. From what is recorded in the Bible, we are able to see the extent to which Job was blessed: “And there were born to him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:2-3). But trials later befell Job, and all his cattle and sheep and camels were stolen and burned by robbers, his servants were killed and his children were crushed in the collapse of his house. This succession of what we would call calamities befell Job. And what approach did Job take to it all? At that time, Job still praised the holy name of God, and he said, “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah” (Job 1:21). He was then afflicted all over his body with painful boils, and he sat amongst the ashes, scraping at his boils with a bit of broken pottery. The richest man in the East had become like a beggar, and these trials that befell Job would be very hard for us to bear! Yet he never blamed God, but instead remained full of and he praised God, and Satan was thoroughly put to shame and fled.
Job bore a strong and resounding witness for God, and he passed smoothly through God’s trials. What followed these trials were increased blessings from God: Job’s wealth and cattle were increased twofold, each one of his children were outstandingly beautiful, and God allowed Job to live for another 140 years, and so he lived until he was 210. After he had undergone God’s trials, Job came to have a greater understanding of the will of God as He tried people, just as Job said, “But he knows the way that I take: when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Job stood firm in his testimony throughout these trials, and the witness he bore put Satan to shame and earned great praise from other people. Thereafter, Satan never dared to tempt Job again, and Job truly became a free man and he earned God’s praise.
Moreover, an even greater blessing which Job received after he had undergone these trials was that God appeared to him within a whirlwind, and God spoke with him, thus giving Job a profound understanding of God’s omnipotence and sovereignty. Job said, “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). To be a created being that was able to see the appearance of God was such a great blessing!
We can see from Job’s experiences that his ability to earn God’s praise was inseparable from his actions when trials befell him. Throughout these trials that were so at odds with his own notions, he possessed a rationality that we ordinary people do not. First of all, he did not blame God, and he did not employ any human means to take back his wealth from the robbers. Instead, he was able to quieten himself before God and he believed that we human beings receive our blessings from God. But in just the same way, we also suffer calamity, so no matter how at odds with his notions a situation was that befell him, he continued to praise the name of God.
The Trial of Abraham
Here, I’d like to talk about a second person from the Bible, being Abraham, the father of faith. Brothers and sisters all know that, when Abraham was 100 years old, God gave him a son, and Abraham loved Isaac dearly. But one day, God’s trial befell Abraham, and God said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and get you into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of” (Genesis 22:2). Think about it: This kind of trial would be hard for anyone to endure, so much so that some people would fight against God and be filled with misconceptions. Yet what approach did Abraham take? Although he felt great distress and pain, he obeyed God, and he did not try to argue with Him or lay down any conditions. Just when he had taken Isaac to the mountain alone and had raised the knife ready to kill him, God sent an angel to stay Abraham’s hand, and the trial was thus ended. Furthermore, God swore an oath and bestowed great blessings on Abraham. God said, “That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is on the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:17-18).
I also read the passage in another book, “To man, God does much that is incomprehensible and even incredible. When God wishes to orchestrate someone, this orchestration is often at odds with man’s conceptions, and incomprehensible to him, yet it is precisely this dissonance and incomprehensibility that are God’s trial and test of man. Abraham, meanwhile, was able to demonstrate the obedience to God within himself, which was the most fundamental condition of his being able to satisfy God’s requirement. Only then, when Abraham was able to obey God’s requirement, when he offered Isaac, did God truly feel reassurance and approval toward mankind—toward Abraham, whom He had chosen. Only then was God sure that this person whom He had chosen was an indispensable leader who could undertake His promise and His subsequent management plan” (“God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself II”).
From this passage, we can see that God arranges environments in order to try us. From the outside, it may appear as though these trials are at odds with our notions and are hard for us to understand, so much so that we feel pain and torment in these environments, yet these trials brim with the painstaking efforts of God. Just like when Abraham stood firm in his testimony during his trial, God saw Abraham’s sincerity, and not only did God not take his son, but He also blessed Abraham so that his descendants would be as numerous as the grains of sand on a beach or the stars in the sky. Behind this, the will of God reached a deeper level, for God chose Abraham to become the leading figure of His work of management for mankind. God purposed to perform His work of management for mankind through the descendants of Abraham, and He would manifest through these people His deeds, His wisdom, His authority and His power. It is not hard for us to see in the Old Testament that God’s work in the Age of Law was primarily done in Israel—proclaiming the laws and leading people in their lives on earth. Israel was the testing ground and the birthland for God’s work of salvation on earth. God’s first incarnation also performed His work in Israel. God adopted the image of a Jew and He redeemed mankind, and this resulted in the ’ gospel of redeeming mankind to spread from Judea throughout the entire world in the Age of Grace.
From this, we can see the greatness of the blessings which Abraham received. We can say that his ability to become the father of many nations, as well as his descendants being blessed by God, are related to God’s trial that befell him in those early days.
The Inspiration Gained from These Experiences
It is not hard for us to see from the trials which befell Abraham and Job that every trial we encounter contains God’s good will; not only can they enable us to gain God’s blessings but, even more importantly, they allow our spiritual lives to grow in leaps and bounds, we gain more knowledge of God, and we can follow the path of belief in God more sturdily and with more stability. Although the trials which befell Abraham and Job are not ones that we ordinary people would experience, as we do not have their stature and neither are we qualified to endure such trials, yet we can still encounter all kinds of different trials in our lives, both big and small. I have seen a sister suffer the torment of illness and her life hung in the balance, and yet she remained full of faith in God and wished to place her life and death in God’s hands. Regardless of whether her illness got better or not, she was still willing to submit to God’s orchestrations and arrangements. In the end, she witnessed God’s deeds and her illness miraculously got better. During this process, the sister’s faith in God increased, and she came to have a more practical appreciation for God’s almightiness and sovereignty. When everything is going smoothly in the careers of some brothers and sisters, they thank God for His blessings. But when their businesses go through a rocky patch and money gets short in their families, the complaints in their hearts come forth, and they blame God for not blessing them. But afterward, through the revelations of God’s words, they realize that their belief in God is just making deals with God, and that they regard God as a cornucopia. They come to understand the wrong motives behind their belief in God, and so they correct their wrong views on belief, and they take their correct place as created beings. When people experience with the correct motive, not only do their lives progress, but their businesses also pick up again. … When brothers and sisters encounter these trials, their flesh suffers much to differing degrees, but from these trials they obtain something even more precious: They understand more and more about God’s will to save man, their knowledge of God becomes more real and they gain more truths. Therefore, it may be said that trials are another kind of blessing from God for us Christians, and they are the path that must be traversed in order for our lives to grow and for us to obtain God’s praise.
Since trials are so beneficial to each and every Christian, what reason do we have to complain when trials and tribulations befall us? Don’t you agree, my friends?
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